MIDFIELDER Andrew Johnson is keeping his fingers crossed that a troublesome knee injury sustained near the end of last season does not flare up again with Ashington’s new campaign set to start on Saturday week.
In fact Johnson, who made 49 starting appearances for the Wansbeck side last term and who ended the season by picking up the award for leading goalscorer with a haul of 16, has issued a ‘count me in’ message to manager Gary Middleton.
The 24-year-old teaching assistant at Ellington First School picked up the knock in the second half of the campaign but kept playing through the pain barrier until the closing weeks when Ashington’s goal – which they achieved – was to end above neighbours Whitley Bay and finish fifth was achieved.
Johnson said at the weekend: “The injury started two months before the end of the season but I kept playing because I hate missing games. It was frustrating because I was limited with what I could do.
“I knew that I was not at my best whilst playing through it and in the end was doing myself no favours and making it worse.
“I had the injury checked out by a specialist who sent me for an MRI scan which revealed I had a tear right through the middle of my cartilage.
“I started a physiotherapy programme which ran for around six weeks and when I saw the doctor, he said the type of injury I had, in two out of three cases the injured party gets away with pure physio and would be fine whilst one out of three would require an operation.
“I have done the pre-season work at Ashington and although I missed the Heaton Stannington match, I got 45 minutes against Morpeth when we played on the 3G pitch at Walker Lightfoot Stadium and I scored twice in our 3-1 win over Blyth Spartans.
“I’m itching to get going again and I want the boss to count me in his squad. It is not affecting me playing but I still feel the twinge and it is aching after games.
“I’m fine at the minute but if it deteriorates then I know I’ll be left facing an operation.
“This is the strongest squad we have had – and I want to be part of it.”